The Disease of Disconnection

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We are in crisis!

A crisis of disconnection.

True connection, real, authentic and deep connection is becoming harder to come by and frankly, it appears we are losing skills that are really too valuable to let go off.

In our fast paced world, where time is money and looking good is more important than connection, we have create a culture where authentic connection is no longer valued in the same way it once was. This certainly appears to have bought great change to our society, and in my opinion, not for the better.

Do you remember a time when you shopped at a store and knew the majority of the staff who you would happily chat with? A time where you would give your postman a present at Christmas  because he had been bringing your family the mail for the last ten years? A time when a friendship was about hanging out and conversation, instead of snapchats, insta pic’s and texting?

I was reading a great article this morning by Dan Schawbel , he was interviewing one of my all time favourite women,  Brene Brown on Why Human Connection will bring us closer and the article covered many great distinctions. One of the most powerful ones is around the fact that fear is keeping us separated.

Brene Brown said “We’ve sorted ourselves into factions based on our politics and ideology. We’ve turned away from one another and toward blame and rage. We’re lonely and untethered. And scared. Any answer to the question “How did we get here?” is certain to be complex. But If I had to identify one core variable that magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions while at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people, my answer would be fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the pain of disconnection. Fear of criticism and failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of not measuring up. When we ignore fear and deny vulnerability, fear grows and metastasizes. We move away from a belief in common humanity and unifying change and move into blame and shame. We will do anything that gives us a sense of more certainty and we will give our power to anyone who can promise easy answers and give us an enemy to blame.”

I found this paragraph very interesting as it reminded me of the three universal fears that every human being is contending with each day.  They are:

  • The fear of not being enough
  • The fear of not belonging
  • The fear of not being loved

Whether or not you identify these fears within yourself consciously, it has been proven that they are in operation within all of us.  The variable though, is how we manage them. For some people, they are very small and have a low impact on their lives, for others, these fears dominate each waking moment.

It seems so topsy turvey that in pursuit of minimising these fears we have actually magnified them.  We portray ourselves as having tons of friends who we are constantly doing cool stuff with on social media yet we are more lonely than ever.

We dress in certain clothes and go to certain places to feel like we belong, like we are part of a tribe but really all we are trying to do is fit in, blend in and be enough. Its not true belonging at all.

Brown goes on to say “True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. If we are going to change what is happening in a meaningful way we’re going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us. We’re going to have to sign up and join, and take a seat at the table. We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness”

What stands out in what Brown says, is that it’s all about vulnerability, truly letting ourselves be seen, even if that brings up fear in us.  Until we are prepared to be uncomfortable, to take a chance, then we will continue to repeat the patterns that we have formed.

As much as technology is a powerful tool and there is certainly much to be grateful for, I am sadden that the cost of it has been a diminishment of authentic and deep connection.

If you would like to read the full article, check out Forbes Magazine

But you signed the contract…

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I have just watched the film Stronger on a flight between Perth and Sydney. It was a beautiful and inspiring film about tragedy and triumph.

Stronger is the story of Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.  Jeff was at the finish line waiting for his ex-girlfriend who was competing to cross the line.  He was desperately trying to win her back and had turned up to demonstrate his love for her. He was right next to the first bomb that was detonated and he suffered devastating damage to his legs. He lost both of his legs and the film is the story of his journey back to himself.

Sometimes life seems to deal totally unfair blows to us – and this certainly looks like one of those situations. The film left me thinking about the “Spiritual Contracts” we sign before we come to (or return to) the Earth Plane.

Specifically, it got me thinking about Jeff’s Spiritual Contract and what a life being an amputee would mean for him. I was curious about what he had learnt and how he would consider the whole event four years later.

So what is a “Spiritual Contract”?

A Spiritual Contract is an agreement that we make on the Spiritual Plane to ensure that we are set up to learn all the soul lessons that we want to here in this life on the Earth Plane. It may be a lesson of resilience, determination, courage, or forgiveness – or it could be anything that will evolve our soul and continue us on our spiritual path.

I first learnt about Spiritual Contracts from two of my favourite teachers – Dr Wayne Dyer and Carolyn Myss. I consider both to be leaders in the field of spirituality. They were lecturing together and both referenced how we enter into contracts or agreements with other’s souls, so that we are able to expand, grow and get the education that we need. The catch is that often this contract shows up in the form of pain of some sort.

This whole concept resonated so deeply with me as I love the thought that any challenge, tragedy or period of suffering we go through has an opportunity of great learning for us. It creates the possibility of us being able to step into a new version of ourselves; a version we never would have discovered if we had not been pushed to the outer limits of ourselves.

To think that when we were planning the purpose of this life now we chose events and people to come in to our lives so we have a chance to expand and grow. Not only did we choose them, but they chose us! We made a contract together and we both signed it, agreeing to support each other’s soul in achieving the teachings of this lifetime (again, only if we are willing to rise to the challenge).

I can appreciate that this is may be a bit left-of-centre for some of you, but just think about it for a minute: think of an event in your life where something bad, sad or mad happened and then ask yourself: “What did I learn from this?”.

From great loss comes great appreciation;

From great sadness comes great connection; and

From great fear comes great courage.

I firmly believe that if you have found some level of growth, expansion, compassion, gratitude etc and then go on to live resourcefully, then the contract has been successfully filled and completed. Sometimes this may take days and sometimes this may take decades.

For Jeff Bauman, his journey was a tough one – a very tough one – yet he rose to become an even better version of himself. What initially seemed to be the most devastating event that could happen to someone ended up providing him with an opportunity of immense growth.

My other conclusion with these Spiritual Contracts is that we choose them on the Spiritual Plane because if we had any idea of the enormity of experiencing it down here, then maybe we would choose differently.

No one likes pain yet there is no better classroom when we are able to move through it.

If plan A doesn’t work there are still twenty five letters left in the alphabet

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I was with my nieces on the weekend and we were talking about “The Plan”. We are off on holidays soon and were brainstorming ideas about what to do and how to get around. I was questioning one of the plans because of time and location and my niece said to me:

“If Plan A doesn’t work, Auntie Kate, there are still twenty five letters left in the alphabet”.

I smiled from the bottom of my soul when I heard this! I thought not only is it very cute, it shows that the girls are adaptable and flexible and willing to go with the flow. These are such important “soft” skills for kids to learn.

All of these traits I would put under the one umbrella of “behavioural flexibility”. Behavioural flexibility is one of the most important skills we can teach our children. If they understand it and can demonstrate it, then they are on the road to a successful adulthood.

Behavioural flexibility is the skill of being able to change our behaviour to meet the person or situation in front of us. The opposite of that is a person expecting the world to always come to them. If it doesn’t come to them they tend to show their unhappiness is a variety of ways – everything from not speaking and sulking, right through to a complete emotional hijacking or tantrum.

One of my favourite sayings in the world is: “The person with the most behavioural flexibility controls the room”. That means that whoever is the most adaptable and can engage with each person (even though each person is different) becomes the most powerful. By powerful, I mean influential.

The same can be said for situations: the person who is able to adapt quickly and graciously and remain in a resourceful state is going to be the person who gets promoted and moves up the chain of command. They have demonstrated that they can handle uncertainty and are willing to come up with Plan B through to Plan Z if need be. In a non-working environment they are the person who is able to move through life with minimal stress and far more pleasure. They roll with the punches!

Behavioural flexibility is really about uncertainty. It’s about how much uncertainty you can handle whilst still remaining in control. For some people, if Plan A doesn’t work the wheels fall off and the whole thing becomes pointless – a total disaster! For others, if Plan A doesn’t work they see it as a chance to get creative and think outside the square. The major distinction here is that one person hates uncertainty and fights it, whereas the other person sees it as an opportunity for growth and development.

One of the great disservices we are doing our children at the moment is not allowing them to experience high levels of uncertainty. We are therefore limiting the development of their behavioural flexibility. Everyone getting a ribbon at the sports carnival, or every layer of “pass the parcel” having a gift in it is actually way more damaging than we realise (in my opinion). These types of situations are the practice ground for real life disappointment and uncertainty, and when we take away their chance to practice in a safe and secure environment we are setting them up for a big fall.

I work with young adults (18, 19 and 20 year olds) and it astounds me that when Plan A doesn’t work they immediately look to someone else for guidance or become so overwhelmed that they’re actually a bit useless. They have not yet developed the ability to think outside the square and their behavioural flexibility is SO limited. This is not because they can’t do it but because their opportunities to practice these soft skills during their childhood and adolescence were so limited. Everything was taken care of and they have not experienced or had to self-manage some of those emotional states that feel yuk.

This is not their fault. We need to be looking to ourselves as adults and question how we can develop more behavioural flexibility – not only within us but in our children too.

Behavioural flexibility really is one of life’s greatest skills to acquire.

 

 

 

Perseverance, where are you my Friend?

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Why do some people give up while others just keep on pushing through? Is perseverance a learnt behaviour or is there an innate predisposition to it?

I recently returned to yoga after a couple of years off.  Yoga for me has always been more about the mental exercise rather than the physical exercise.  I do hot yoga so as well as my body being stretched to its limit, I also have the heat to contend with and heat – I have learnt over the years – brings a whole other set of mental challenges.

What I noticed over my first few weeks back was that I was very quick to give up on a posture once it hurt too much or was too uncomfortable.  The mind chatter would start and totally let me off the hook: “Kato, you don’t want to hurt yourself, maybe you should just have a little sit down” or “Kato, your heart is beating particularly fast, I think you should rest for a minute”.

The first month or so I gently eased myself back into yoga, not even considering for a moment that I could have been working much harder. I mean, I was just loving myself for finally getting back in the room. That was my “Get Out Of Jail Free” card: I was there so I don’t have to push myself too hard!

It wasn’t until I was in a class being taught by the studio owner, Hannah, about five or six weeks in.  Hannah is an old friend of mine and funnily enough we did our very first yoga class together back in 2008.

Hannah is an excellent teacher and I noticed that as I participated in her class I dug deeper, tried harder, gritted my teeth through the pain more, and turned a corner. I left that class feeling amazing – I knew that I had given it everything I had and I was basking in the glow of tired muscles and a detoxed body.

It was after this class that I really got thinking: “How come I was willing to work so much harder in today’s class? How come my perseverance really showed up today?”.

I realised that I wanted to do my best for Hannah.  I am externally motivated and because I care about her, I wanted to give it 100% to show her I appreciate her teaching.

This bought up a new question: had the perseverance always been inside me or did I just develop it today?

The intuitive answer that came to me is that it was always there – I just hadn’t tapped into it in a really long time.  It had been dormant or I had totally ignored it.

Yesterday I was talking with a friend of mine, Lee.  She has just returned home from Mount Kilimanjaro and I was fascinated to hear about her trip and more specifically the walk up the mountain. I thought she would be able to offer more insight into perseverance.

Lee’s journey sounded tough! It took five days to get up the mountain and on the fourth night, they slept for just a few hours before getting up at 2am and then hiking for 11 hours to the summit. She said it was so cold and her bones were aching with fatigue. It was minus 20 degrees at the peak so the exhilaration of getting there was heavily balanced with staying warm.

I asked Lee what it took to get up that last section of the mountain and she looked me in the eye and said “Everything. It took everything.” and she smiled that wistful smile of a person who has conquered the world. She said: “I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it – it was literally a step-by-step process.  Everything hurt and I was just so cold and tired. I used up every last resource I had in my body”.

How easy would it have been to quit? Very!!

Except she couldn’t quit: she had flown across an ocean to get there, taken time away from her family and friends, used leave time from work, spent the money, and gotten nine tenths up the mountain. She was therefore totally invested.

And her perseverance showed up when she asked it to.

I truly believe that we are capable of so much more than what we expect from ourselves. Maybe it’s our beliefs around not being good enough or the task being too hard. Maybe it’s us worrying about what people think or don’t think, and maybe for each of us the reasons are different, but I feel certain that perseverance lives happily and well within all of us.

We just have to call on it more often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leap of Faith

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When I started my coaching journey back in 2011, it was the first time in a long time, I had started anything so completely new.  I hadn’t done any study for a long time and I hadn’t put myself in a new community to such a great extent in years.  This was a large leap, way beyond the edge of my comfort zone.

I remember before I flew to Sydney to start the course that I felt quite nervous.  I was unsure what to expect and I hoped that there would be some people that I really connected with.  I didn’t know the area where the course was being run and I didn’t know a single other person who had been associated with the coaching school I had selected.

All of that being said, I felt excited.  I was so ready for something new and being a natural adventurer, I had enough certainty in myself that I knew all would work out well.  It feel good to be moving outside my comfort zone.

I was looking out the window as we landed into Sydney and I remember thinking “This is the beginning.  The beginning of what, well I don’t really know, but I can’t wait to find out”.

It was an exciting thought and I was so ready.

My coaching course was two years long and it started with this three day weekend in Sydney.  It was a spectacular weekend!  I had an amazing teacher called Joe Pane, who to this day, is one of the best speakers that I have ever had the privilege of being taught by.  I made a beautiful friend called Juls who will be in my life forever and was the recipient of my very first coaching session during that training (which was diabolical!)

The reason I share this story is because it was a great reminder for me that a leap of faith is good for the soul.  In fact I believe its necessary for the soul.

As much as security, safe and comfort are all emotional states that make us feel good, being scared, stretched or uncomfortable make us feel alive and that is really what our very being yearns for, that sense of aliveness.

Some people find that feeling closing business deals, some find it by climbing mountains or jumping out of planes, some people find it by joining new groups and clubs.  It doesn’t matter how you personally get your fix, its just important that you get it.

Prior to taking this particular leap of faith, I spent several years experiencing mild discontent with my working life, a bit of boredom, a bit of apathy and a general loss of interest in my work.  Yet, I wasn’t prepared to throw caution to the wind and take any risks. Really, the pain hadn’t become great enough for me to move.

That is until the Universe kicked me up the bum through my Mum becoming unwell.  My Mum’s illness prompted me to reevaluate what I really wanted to be doing with my time.  If my life was going to be cut short, would I have done all the things that I wanted to do?

The answer was a resounding no and I was finally knocked into action to take the leap of faith that my soul had been nudging me towards for the last few years.

And I learnt a valuable lesson…..

Take those leaps of faith, regularly and often. They are as important to us as water and food and air.  Like those things nourish our physical body, the leaps of faith nourish our spirit and grow our soul.

 

 

The Desiderata

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Last week I posted a single line from the Desiderata on Instagram, a prose poem written by Max Hermann in 1927. It is a magnificent piece of writing, a simple and thoughtful take on how to live a life of contentment, happiness and fulfilment.

The post prompted several conversations about what sort of person Max Hermann must of been to have had such an insightful and simple take on life. He was clearly  a man who understood the world, and even though this poem suggests that he had his struggles, he was loyal to the belief of choosing happy.

It is the simplicity of this poem that makes its so attractive to me, and the wisdom too.  If we  all lived by these words, I think the world would be a happier place.  I just had to share it again.

Enjoy Max’s beautiful work…..

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Life is a journey, not a destination…..

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Today I was chatting with two beautiful ladies I work with and the conversation turned to the topic of “life is a journey, not a destination”.  One of the ladies was sharing her experiences on achievement and how, once she achieves whatever her goal is, only then is she allowed to enjoy the fruits of her labour (or the fruits of her experience).  That belief really challenged me for several different reasons. Mostly, because the enjoyment of the process is all determined by the outcome.  Being in the now is not enough because the goal has not yet been realised. Don’t smell the roses, just keep on marching through, we are not there YET!

So what happens when the goal, for whatever reason, is not realised? Does that mean the process of going after the goal can no longer hold any joy or celebration?

I notice more and more that our world is obsessed with right and wrong and good and bad. I absolutely appreciate the power of contrast, yet so often we use it against ourselves. It is treated as a weapon to destroy our enjoyment in the NOW.  If there is “right”, well here must be “wrong”.

“If I don’t get the outcome I want, well this all has been a waste of time and energy”, “It was meant to go this way but it didn’t so I won’t celebrate the journey of getting to here even though I may have learnt a lot”

Why are we so focused on finishing the race when we are smack bang in the middle of it?

Life is in the learning and if we continually pass the learning by because we are so focussed on the outcome, well, it is a huge injustice to ourselves and our creator.  The danger of living a destination orientated life is that we only allow ourselves to celebrate our achievements once we have achieved them.  We are wrong until we have arrived at right.

“Until I am living in the beautiful house, I am not really a success”, “Until, I have $200,000 in the bank, I am not really secure.”

I got to call it, it’s total and utter bullshit!

Imagine how different life could be if you woke up, ate a great breakfast, kissed your partner and kids and then announced that you are a success.  I mean you are breathing, healthy, connected to others and have food on your table.  That automatically puts you in the top percentages of people on the planet. Imagine how different life could be if you royally stuffed up the business deal and because of that, learnt something that you never would have come across any other way and were able to turn that into a deal that is 10 times bigger than anything you could have previously imagined?  What if each day you focussed on the journey of your life with total appreciation,  that you are right where you should be?

When I think of people who go on these amazing treks over months at a time, they talk about the moments along the way so much more than the moment they finished the journey.  The moment of finishing is so, so sweet because of the preciousness of all those hours, days and weeks that have gone into getting them there.

The Now is where it’s at, enjoy the journey……